Purvi’s voter ID card refers to her as Ramesh. But this isn’t an error by election officials. Named Ramesh by her parents, Purvi is a transgender who changed her name and started dressing like a woman 10 years ago. Her voter’s card still carries her original name, and she is yet to apply for a new one, fearing the hassle involved in procuring documents that need her family’s approval.
Now, she will soon make a fresh application for the voter card after the Election Commission of India (ECI) recently issued guidelines that a ‘guru’ can attest a first-time transgender voter’s registration form. While earlier, the Form of Oath or Affirmation needed the signatures of the applicant’s parents, the norm has now been relaxed for the transgender community.
A ‘guru’ is a senior member of the transgender community who initiates younger members, known as ‘chelas’.
“We received instructions from the ECI three weeks ago to add the word ‘guru’ where ‘parent’ is mentioned and ‘chela’ where ‘son or daughter’ is mentioned,” said state chief electoral officer Debashish Chakrabarty. “We will implement the changes in the forthcoming summary revision of electoral rolls slated to begin from October 1,” he said.
The new guidelines will mean that if the transgender applicant does not have address proof or other documents, those of their gurus will suffice. “A very small number of the state’s transgender population has voter cards. Most of them stay away from their families and find it difficult to get their forms attested by their parents,” said Chakrabarty.
An official said members of the transgender community who had registered for voter cards as males could surrender their cards and apply for one under the new guidelines.
“I will apply for a new voter ID that will bear my true identity,” said Purvi, who is estranged from her family and works with Humsafar Trust, a not-for-profit organisation that works for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “I have been stopped several times at the airport because the photo on my voter ID card, which shows me as an 18 year-old, looks very different. I have managed to travel thanks to my office ID card and with the help of my colleagues,” said Purvi.
“Things got a little better last year after an agent managed to make a PAN card for me with my present identity,” she said.